A much-anticipated hiking and biking trail connecting Matthaei with points beyond is within sprinting distance. With some critical dollars in place and local governments on board, private donations will close the funding gap.
Talk of a trail connecting Matthaei Botanical Gardens with Parker Mill Park and the Border to Border Trail system has been brewing for years. Until recently, however, it was just that—talk. Now we’re within sprinting distance of a trail that will engage users with nature on their way to and from Matthaei, clearing the path for the Gardens to connect to Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and beyond in a truly groundbreaking way.
The paved trail will be bigger than the sum of its parts, delivering multiple benefits to the community and to the Botanical Gardens. Safe travel is just one of those benefits. The stretch of Dixboro Road between Parker Mill County Park and Matthaei Botanical Gardens is no walk—or bike ride—in the park. Shoulderless, pitted, and traffic-laden, Dixboro Road from Parker Mill to the Gardens is unpleasant and downright dangerous for bicyclists and walkers.
The proposed Matthaei Botanical Gardens trail
in green showing its connection to Parker Mill Park
and the Border to Border Trail.
When finished the path will wend its way through a green quilt quite off the beaten path of Dixboro, inviting walkers and bicyclists to enjoy otherwise inaccessible ecosystems. From the trail, travelers will see quiet forests, rolling hills, and wildlife such as butterflies and birds. The trail also aligns with one of our priorities: creating nonmotorized transportation connecting U-M’s central and north campuses to Matthaei.
Not only is the trail a strategic priority for Matthaei, it’s also a critical connector identified in Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor Township’s 5-year plans. And the trail is part of Governor Snyder’s newly announced Iron-Belle Trail, which will stretch all the way from Belle Isle to Ironwood, eighteen miles south of Lake Superior.
Collaboration between the University and Township has been key. And while the University owns the land, only local governments are eligible to receive certain construction grants. Mike Moran, Township supervisor, has been a deeply committed partner. We wouldn’t have been able to get this far without his support.
In March the trail took a huge step forward: the Township and U-M received word of a conditional commitment of $1.2 million in MDOT’s Transportation Alternative Funds toward the $2.5 million total project cost. This, on top of the $250,000 already committed by Washtenaw County Parks and Rec, $50,000 from our corporate neighbor National Sanitation Foundation, $100,000 from Matthaei-Nichols, $50,000 from Ann Arbor Township, and $300,000 in other outstanding requests, have put the trail within reach.
Moran is already looking to the future. “I hope to continue the U-M-Ann Arbor Township partnership to build a trail from Matthaei to Plymouth Road once the Geddes to Matthaei portion is complete,” says Moran.
A non-motorized trail will provide
an alternative to taking the car for
100 student groups, 350 students, 38 U-M
groups logging over 3,250 volunteers hours at
the Campus Farm, and the 140,000 people who
visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens each year
We are close, very close, to making the dream of a hiking and biking trail connecting Matthaei with points in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and beyond a reality. Now we’re reaching out to individuals, Matthaei-Nichols members, businesses, and corporations to bridge the gap between the funding in place and the amount needed to go ahead with trail construction.
The funding gap is about $550,000 if outstanding applications come through. To close that gap we’ll be turning to you. The goal is to raise the remaining funds by December 2015 to allow construction to begin in the summer of 2016.